I read Trinity by Leon Uris back in May. This novel explores the history of Ireland from the late 1800s to the early 1900s. One of the elements Uris blended into the story was poitín, the Irish version of American moonshine. Poitín, which is pronounced “potcheen”, is derived from the Irish word “pota”, meaning “pot” – referring to the small pot stills traditionally used to produce it.
Historically, poitín was distilled illegally in rural areas, often in homemade stills, and its production was a well-guarded secret. This illicit trade persisted for centuries, especially after heavy taxation and licensing regulations on distillation were imposed in the 17th century.
The drink is typically made from malted barley, sugar beet, potatoes, or other sources of fermentable sugars. Its strength can vary widely, with some homemade versions being particularly potent, sometimes reaching alcohol content over 70% ABV.
In 1997, poitín was legalized in Ireland, and there are now several brands commercially producing and selling it, both in Ireland and internationally. These legal versions are made under strict quality controls, ensuring a safer and more consistent product than the illicit versions of the past.
I saw this piece on poitín a few weeks ago. It talks about how the market has been redeveloped. Definitely a fun read. What do you think? Wicked cool?